Speaking of topdressing, we are going to increase our frequency of topdressing greens going forward. The reason for this is to provide more consistent playing conditions throughout the season and in varying weather conditions. This was discussed at length with David Oatis (our USGA Agronomist) and his comments are below:
As we have discussed in many past visits and reports, the greens at Westmount have a couple of fundamental problems: many occupy poor growing environments (insufficient sunlight penetration and air circulation as a result of excessive tree plantings) and the drainage characteristics of the soils are poor. A significant amount of sand has been incorporated in the soil profiles over the years, but based on visual observation as well as laboratory testing, there still is far too much organic matter and too high a percentage of fine soil particles in the upper couple of inches. There also are some architectural issues with some of the greens in that they do not have much cupping area due to the severity of their contours.
So what does all this mean? The greens will perform best during periods of dry weather when Mr. Janzen can control application of water. However, the soils are very “unforgiving” in that once they get wet, they will tend to stay wet. Greens with this type of soil condition tend to be very firm when they are dry, yet very soft when they are wet. Under wet conditions, you can expect large, ripping/tearing/”splatting” ball marks.
Fortunately, the majority of the greens have fairly good surface drainage so that when heavy rains occur, most of the water sheets off. However, you can expect problems when prolonged rain events occur (regardless of whether they are very light or heavy) as more water will be absorbed under this scenario. That is when the surfaces will get very soft and be prone to the ball marking problem as well as footprinting and other types of mechanical injury from mowers, rollers, etc. If these soils ever get extremely dry, they may become hydrophobic and difficult to rewet.
So what is the solution? The greens need more soil modification through conventional aeration, verticutting and topdressing. They also need more deep soil modification to improve internal drainage. Following through with the prescribed program will reduce both playability extremes. You can expect the greens to be more resilient during prolonged periods of wet weather; and, you can expect the greens to be a bit more resilient (receptive) when they are extremely dry.
- Implement a more regimented verticutting and topdressing program. Westmount is a busy golf course with a busy golf schedule, and the golfers will have to make some concessions. They need not be great, but the golfers must remember that this will improve the course for them. Many courses delay opening of one nine every Monday to provide a few hours (until 10:00-12:00) for uninterrupted maintenance work. This is a very small price to pay for having significantly improved turf quality and playability. The nines can be alternated on a weekly basis, but the bottom line is that the greens should be topdressed and possibly verticut every 1-2 weeks throughout the majority of the growing season.
If you would like to read the entire USGA Report, click on the following link: 2011 USGA Report
For the balance of the season, we will be topdressing more frequently to help us achive these long term goals of consistency. Sorry for the long post but this is an important topic.